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Satcasters to shut nets despite extension offer

B'casters say they won't pursue matter until Jan. 1

WASHINGTON — Satcasters are saying thanks but no thanks to an offer by broadcasters of a three-month extension to a court order requiring DirecTV and EchoStar to shut down their network feeds on Oct. 8.

Fox, CBS and CBS affiliates officially informed Florida federal judge Lenore Nesbitt last week that they would not seek enforcement of her order until Jan. 1. But satcasters noted Monday that broadcasters are not seeking an official amendment of the original court order and they have no choice but to follow the judge’s direction to shut down the network feed for more than a million DBS subscribers by Oct. 8.

“They are not going to amend the court order,” said Andy Paul of the Satellite Broadcasting Communications Assn. who added that satcasters are committed to meeting the Oct. 8 deadline.

A spokesman for the National Assn. of Broadcasters acknowledged that an amendment to the order is not being sought, but said it would be “highly unlikely” that the judge would enforce the Oct. 8 deadline now that broadcasters have volunteered a three-month extension.

Tried to block importing

Fox, CBS and CBS affiliates filed the lawsuit in Miami in an effort to block satellite companies from importing network signals from distant markets to markets where there was a local network signal available. The issue heated up during the past several years as the DBS industry has signed up more than 1 million subscribers in urban and suburban markets.

The SBCA’s Paul said broadcasters are trying to push the deadline past this November’s congressional elections. Paul claims broadcasters are worried that the termination of network service for satellite subscribers could create an angry constituency in some areas. House Telecommunications subcommittee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) was quick to applaud the broadcasters’ offer, saying it could create some “breathing room” that would allow Congress to address the issue.

Broadcasters said they are offering the three-month extension to ensure an orderly transition for satcast subscribers.

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